Parishioners rally in the face of employee embezzlement charges
Father John J. McCartney, pastor of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, has assured his parishioners that the church has made significant changes in its accounting process, all in a response to charges by the Nassau County District Attorney that a church bookkeeper had allegedly embezzled more than $180,000 from church accounts over a period of five years. He also noted that regular collections to the church’s coffers have increased in light of the scandal.
Last Sunday, Rev. McCartney read a letter at the Sunday masses, addressing both the investigation, its outcome and what comes next for the venerable Roslyn Harbor institution.
“A little more than a year ago, I spoke at all the masses to inform you that we had discovered some irregularities regarding the financial accounts of St. Mary’s Parish,” he read. “We immediately began an internal investigation which uncovered more irregularities and missing funds. At that time a lay employee of the parish was terminated and we immediately filed a criminal complaint with the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. I promised you then that as soon as I had any new information to tell you, I would do so immediately. Now that day has come.
“On Tuesday of this week our former employee was arrested and has now been charged with embezzling $183,000 from St. Mary’s Church. As I told you last year, the Diocese of Rockville Centre carries insurance for such occurrences, and so we expect we will be able to reclaim all of the missing funds.
“It is important that you know that this theft was in no way connected with the collection, counting, or depositing of money. The theft concerned online banking and accounting matters and was not readily apparent to professional accountants. In addition, we have implemented a number of changes to prevent this from ever happening again.
“I am very grateful to Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and her staff for their professionalism, the seriousness with which they took this matter, and their determination to help the church and to see justice done. I especially want to thank Deputy Bureau Chief Peter Mancuso of the Financial Crimes Bureau who has led this investigation and who will be prosecuting this case, as well as Detective Investigator Walter Magnussen. They have done extraordinary work, have left no stone unturned, and have always made it clear how important our case was to them.
“I also want to offer my thanks to Bishop Barres, and to the many Diocesan staff members who have worked with us, especially those in the financial and legal departments, for their tremendous help and support during this time.
“But most especially I want to thank you, the people of St. Mary’s, who have always been so generous to, and supportive of, our parish. When this occurred, I felt it was most important that I come before you as soon as possible to tell you everything we knew at that time. Since then, we have received nothing but encouragement and support from all of you, and for that I am very grateful; grateful, but not surprised. Our collections have even increased.
“No pastor ever wants to have to come before his people with news like this. I want you to know how seriously I take my office as pastor of this parish, and the spiritual and temporal responsibilities that go along with it. I hope you know how much I love this parish and all of you.
“This arrest is a tragedy for this individual, for her family, and especially for her children. As our Savior gave us a strict command to love our neighbor and to forgive our enemies, I ask everyone in the parish to pray for this person and her family, even as we also seek that justice will be done. Doing so will demonstrate to all that we are truly the Catholic people of St. Mary’s, and that we practice what we preach.
“Over the past five years we have been doing wonderful work for Our Lord, assisted greatly by Our Lady, in building up the Catholic Faith in the little portion of the vineyard God has given us, this wonderful parish of St. Mary’s,” Father McCartney concluded. “Never become discouraged or lose faith in the Lord or the Church when trouble comes. I believe the Lord still has a great deal of important work for us to do here at St. Mary’s, and many blessings and graces in store for us as well.”
District Attorney Madeline Singas said that Therese Iuzzolino of Merrick was arraigned last week before Judge Maxine Broderick on charges of grand larceny and four counts of falsifying business records. Bail, Singas added, was set at $30,000 bond or $15,000 cash and the defendant is due back in court Sept. 11. If convicted of the top count, she faces a maximum of five to 15 years in prison.
“St. Mary’s parish is a pillar of the Roslyn Harbor community, and this defendant’s alleged selfish actions betrayed the trust placed in her as the church’s bookkeeper,” Singas said. “Stealing from churches compromises the good work they do to serve our communities, and I’m grateful to the leaders at St. Mary’s for their cooperation throughout our investigation.”
Singas said that the alleged embezzlement took place with the defendant making online payments from the church’s bank account for various personal credit cards. The defendant, Singas added, also created electronic check vouchers.
To conceal the theft, the defendant, Singas said, allegedly falsified various church records by deleting deposit and withdrawal entries. In all, the defendant allegedly spent the money on payments to a jeweler and an automobile dealer, as well as toy stores, gun shops, dental expenses, computers, fast food, and entertainment.
If this article sounds familiar, but is probably due to a similar embezzlement scandal that rocked the Roslyn School District a good 14 years ago. The district has long recovered smartly of that trial and is back on top as one of the top districts in the state. St. Mary’s, long the pride of Roslyn Harbor, will rebound just as strongly and in fact, they already have.